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What Are Hawaii Contractors?

The Professional and Vocational Licensing Division of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) is responsible for the regulation of 52 different professions and vocations in the state. As part of its regulatory duties, this division oversees the licensing and regulation of contractors in the state through the Hawaii Contractors Licensing Board (HCLB)

TIn Hawaii, a contractor is any person or entity that offers or proceeds to undertake the entire or part construction, repair, or improvement of any structure including, but not limited to, buildings, railroads, and highways. It is estimated that there are currently more than 12,300 issued contractor licenses in Hawaii. The HCLB classifies contractors as either general engineering contractors, general building contractors, or specialty contractors. Similarly, contractor licenses are categorized as either entity licenses, Responsible Managing Employees (RMEs) licenses, and sole proprietor licenses, depending on the structure of the contractor’s business. Per the Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 444, any contractor undertaking a project exceeding $1,500 in overall cost or a project that requires a building permit, regardless of the overall cost, must be licensed.

Similar to the HCLB, several other agencies, some of which are also supervised by the Professional & Vocational Licensing Division (PVLD), oversee the licensing and regulation of other professionals in Hawaii. These include the Board of Professional Engineers, Architects, Surveyors & Landscape Architects which licenses and regulates engineers, architects, surveyors, and landscape architects practicing in Hawaii, and the Hawaii Medical Board which licenses physicians practicing in Hawaii. The Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii also oversees the licensing, disciplining, and regulation of attorneys in the state. Note that the state’s supreme court is an independent body, and as such, is not supervised by the PVLD,

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Hawaii

Property projects such as home building, repair, or remodeling usually require extensive planning and contemplations. Consequently, it is important to hire a competent contractor that can perform up to expectations and do a proper job. Below are a few tips to consider with regards to hiring a competent contractor:

  • Have an estimated budget for your home project.
  • Ask family and friends to refer a competent contractor. You can also check projects handled by any referred contractor and conclude whether you are satisfied with the projects.
  • Consider bids from multiple contractors. It is ideal to choose from multiple contractors rather than going with the very first bid that comes your way.
  • Verify the license of the contractor you choose. You can verify a contractor’s license by contacting the Licensing and Business Registration Information Section (LBRIS) of the Hawaii Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO) at (587) 4272 or through the PVLD online public license search portal.
  • Ensure that the contractor has worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
  • Ask the contractor to provide references from previous clients. You may also contact the previous clients and ask about their experience with the contractor.
  • Put down your agreement with the contractor in writing. Ideally, you should hire an attorney to deal with the drafting of the agreement and oversee other legal aspects of your business relationship with your contractor.
  • Do not make large down payments and include a payment structure in the agreement with your contractor.
  • Avoid paying in cash and only make complete payment when the project meets the agreed expectations you have with the contractor.
  • Keep a detailed record of the job. This includes keeping a record of the written agreement, correspondences, checks, and other related documents.
  • Ensure your contractor is also of good conduct. You can check your contractor’s complaint history through the BusinessCheck portal of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) or by contacting the DCCA Consumer Resource Center at (808) 587-4272.

How to Search A Contractor’s License in Hawaii?

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Professional and Vocational Licensing Board handles contractor licensing in Hawaii. The state requires contractors performing a project needing a building permit or where the labor and material costs exceeds $1,000 to hold a state-level license. The board offers three types of licenses for contractor:

  • Class A for engineering contractors
  • Class B for General Contractors
  • Class C for specialty and subcontractors

To verify a contractor's license in Hawaii, check the license search page on the Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) website. You can perform a quick search on the page using the contractor's name, business name, or license number. Alternatively, you can send a mail to the board with a self-addressed envelope and a $15 fee at:

  • Licensing Branch – License Verification
  • P. O. Box 3469
  • Honolulu, Hawaii 96801

Contracting without an appropriate license in Hawaii is a misdemeanor, and penalties may include jail time and fines. To report an unlicensed contractor in the State of Hawaii, contact the Regulated Industries Complaints Office at 587-4272 or call toll-free 1-800-394-1902.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Hawaii?

In Hawaii, home improvement projects and other projects involving contractors are sometimes expensive due to different reasons, one of which is the high cost of living in the state. Nevertheless, the amount a contractor charges for a project largely depends on the nature of the project, its expected cost in materials and labor, and its estimated completion time. Note that contractors may also have different methods of charging clients. While some contractors like electricians may charge hourly, other contractors like flooring contractors may charge by the size of the property or area where the work is to be carried out. Consequently, below are some contractors in Hawaii and their estimated charges

Plumbing contractors
$110 - $135 per hour
Roofing contractors
$245 - $3,000 per 100 square foot
Electricians
$100 - $140 per hour
Carpenters
$30 - $40 per hour
Flooring contractors
$10 - $15 per square foot
Interior designing contractors
$140 - $170 per hour
Siding installation contractors
$10 - $15 per square foot
HVAC contractors
$70 - $100 per hour
Painters
$35 - $45 per hour

Additionally, you may need the services of an attorney to oversee the legal aspects of your home project such as reviewing the agreement with your contractor or advising you on any legal matters that are related to your project. The average hourly attorney charge in Hawaii is $150 and $250.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Hawaii?

Home improvement scams are deceitful or dishonest tactics that contractors use to fraudulently obtain money from unsuspecting homeowners. These scams include instances when the contractor does not complete the project or does not even perform the agreed task after receiving part payment, or when the contractor performs a poor-quality project.

Therefore, it is necessary to protect yourself from home improvement scammers when planning a home improvement project. An important step to this is first to find a competent and licensed contractor. You can find a competent contractor by shopping around and considering multiple bids or asking for referrals from trusted family members and friends. You can also verify if a contractor is licensed by contacting the DCCA Consumer Resource Center at (808) 587-4272 or through this agency’s BusinessCheck portal. Note that Hawaii contractors must be licensed before they can undertake or handle projects with an overall cost above $1,500 or projects that require a building permit. Additionally, you should have an estimated budget for the project and ensure you do not make large down payments. Although Hawaii does not have a down payment law, you should ideally not pay more than 15% of the overall project cost as a down payment. It is also ideal to make payments in check as opposed to making payments in cash. You should generally ensure there is an agreement between you and your chosen contractor that spells out the important aspect of the project as well as your contractor’s duties and the payment structure. Regarding this agreement, it is advisable to hire an attorney who will draft it and also advise you on what terms to include or remove from the agreement. Finally, remember to keep and maintain any records related to the project and only make complete payment to the contractor after a satisfactory job.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Hawaii?

Home improvement scammers devise and utilize different techniques to defraud homeowners planning to execute a home improvement project. Despite their tendency to defraud any homeowner, they typically target vulnerable people such as elderly homeowners. The State of Hawaii has recognized the likelihood to defraud elders and has made it a crime to undertake, or offer to undertake, home improvement projects for an elderly resident of the state without obtaining the required license or following the relevant regulations. Contractors found guilty of committing this offense can face a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of $20,000, or both, in addition to any other court-imposed penalties.

Below are some common techniques used for home improvement scams in Hawaii:

  • Pressure: The scammer offers you a bid and pressures you into accepting the bid. The pressure may come in different forms and may include a discount or through the contractor imbuing you with a sense of urgency. The endgame of this pressure is to make you accept the bid without addressing other considerations such as verifying the contractor’s license or drafting an agreement.
  • Requesting immediate cash payments: This is another technique in which the scammer requests immediate cash payments or substantial down payments under the premise of buying the necessary materials. Even though Hawaii does not have a down payment law, you should ideally pay only a reasonable fraction of the project’s overall cost as a down payment and the payment should never be in cash.
  • Door-to-door solicitations: This involves instances when the scammer visits you uninvited and offers to perform a home improvement service. Some scammers using this technique may further claim they had just recently completed a similar project and they have leftover materials they can use to execute your home improvement project at a discounted fee. It is more ideal to ignore such door-to-door solicitations and carefully find a contractor you can trust for your project.

Scammers may also exploit other techniques and it is important to be on the lookout. Always ensure you have considered multiple bids, the contractor you choose is licensed, there is a written agreement, and you are keeping track of the project. To reduce the rate of home improvement scams in Hawaii, the HCLB has taken multiple disciplinary measures against contractors that do not follow the relevant laws in performing construction services. These disciplinary measures have resulted in both fines and license revocations for erring contractors. In February 2021, the HCLB fined a contractor the sum of $3,000 for failing to obtain the necessary licenses required to handle a project and also acting beyond the scope of already obtained licenses. A few months before that, the HCLB had issued a similar fine of $2,500 to another contractor that had failed to include mandatory disclosures in a home renovation agreement made with a homeowner in Paia. Lastly, the HCLB also revoked the license of a contractor in mid 2020 for failing to comply with a previous settlement agreement connected to a 2019 disciplinary proceeding.

Note that according to the Hawaii cooling-off law, you may cancel any purchase or service above $25 within three business working days. However, if you find out after hiring a contractor that this contractor is unlicensed, then you are allowed to cancel the contractor’s services within thirty days. Finally, if you suspect you have been scammed, you can file a complaint with the Hawaii Regulated Industries Complaints Office.

What are Disaster Scams in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, disaster scams refer to techniques used in fraudulently obtaining money from people with homes and property that were affected by a disaster. They typically do this by visiting homeowners in the affected areas with an offer to remodel, repair, or improve the parts of the property affected by the disaster. Below are some tips to avoid disaster scams and properly repair your property:

  • Have a breakdown of the affected areas of your property
  • Make a budget for your property repair
  • Avoid door-to-door bids and carefully find a competent contractor. You should ideally consider multiple bids rather than choosing the first contractor you find
  • Ensure the contractor is licensed and request proof of worker’s compensation insurance. You can verify a contractor’s license through the PVLD online public license search
  • Check the contractor’s complaint history whether there is any record of disaster scamming. You can also ask the contractor for references from previous clients to confirm that the contractor is competent
  • Do not make large down payments and avoid cash payments
  • Make sure the agreement with your contractor is in writing. However, do not sign any agreement or agree to a term you are unsure of. You should hire the services of an attorney in this regard

Note that Hawaii prohibits the increase of commodity prices when there is a state of emergency. Therefore, if the disaster in your region leads to a state of emergency and you suspect, or have proof, that your contractor increased commodity prices in comparison to the pre-emergency prices, you may report to the Office of Consumer Protection online or by phone at (808) 587-4272.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams?

Legal scams in Hawaii refer to different means through which scammers hide behind legal operations or court-related operations to dishonestly obtain money or personal information from unsuspecting or law-abiding victims. A common legal work scam in Hawaii is the impersonation of judges, court staff, or members of law enforcement. Scammers mostly use this method to request the payment of some sum of money from their victims or require their victim to share some private personal information or financial information with the threat of arrest. The scam is typically performed by phone or email. The Hawaii State Judiciary has advised Hawaiians to ignore any call from a caller claiming to be a staff of the judiciary and has also made it clear that it does not pass across official information by email unless a person emails them first on a specific issue. If you receive an email claiming to be from the Hawaii State Judiciary or any officer of the judiciary, it is advised that you do not open this email as the state’s judiciary sends official correspondence only through the United States Postal Service.

Generally, if you receive any call or email from someone claiming to be from, or affiliated with, the Hawaii State Judiciary or Hawaii law enforcement, ignore the call or email and quickly contact the Hawaii State Judiciary Communications and Community Relations Office by email or phone, at (808) 539-4909, to report the situation and request guidance.

How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
Hawaii?

The processing time for a license application in Hawaii largely depends on when the applicant completely and correctly submitted all the required information. A complete application is typically processed within 15 - 20 business days, and applicants can check the status of their applications through the PVLD search portal. However, applicants are to wait for at least seven working days after submission before doing this so that their application status can be uploaded to the portal. Approved applicants can also print their pocket ID card and duplicate wall certificate through this portal. Pocket IDs can be used as proof of licensing when offering services while wall certificates are to be placed openly at the contractor’s place of work.

How to Maintain your License in Hawaii

A contractor’s license in Hawaii is valid for two years, during which the contractor must maintain the license by ensuring compliance with the requirements of a workers’ compensation and liability insurance and maintaining their surety bond coverage when required by the Board. It is recommended by the HCLB that contractors, or their insurance agents, should submit their proof of workers’ compensation and liability insurance through the Online Insurance Certificate Information Submittal System. Failure to properly maintain an issued license may lead to automatic forfeiture of the license and the contractor may need to apply for a new license. Note that the HCLB exempts certain contractors from some of the requirements of license maintenance. For example, sole proprietors without employees are exempted from having workers’ compensation insurance. However, exempted contractors must fill and submit an exclusion form along with the required documentation to:

  • Contractors Licensing Board - Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
  • 335 Merchant Street
  • Room 301
  • P.O. Box 3469
  • Honolulu, HI 96801

Contractors can also make changes to certain license information such as name and address changes to their licenses online. These changes typically take effect within three to five business working days.

To maintain an attorney license in Hawaii, the attorney must complete a minimum of three credit hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education every calendar year and a minimum of one hour of approved ethics or professional responsibility education at least once every three years. Attorneys can also make changes to their registration information through their Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA) portal. Queries concerning registration information updates can be directed to:

  • Hawaii State Bar Association
  • Alakea Corporate Tower
  • 1100 Alakea Street
  • Suite 1000
  • Honolulu, HI 96813
  • Phone: (808) 537-1868
  • Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, except weekends and state holidays

How to Renew Contractor License in
Hawaii

A contractor’s license in Hawaii must be renewed every even-numbered year, before the end of September. Renewals begin eight weeks before the expiration of a license and they can be done online. However, contractors that are unable to, or prefer not to, renew online can renew by submitting a hardcopy form. To make hardcopy renewals, contractors may request a hardcopy renewal form from eight weeks before their license expiration by contacting the PVLD at:

  • The Professional and Vocational Licensing Branch
  • King Kalakaua Building
  • 335 Merchant Street
  • Room 301
  • Honolulu, HI 96813
  • Phone: (808) 586-3000
  • Hours: 7:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, except state holidays

The processing time for online renewal is between three and five business working days, while the processing time for a hardcopy renewal is between 14 and 21 business working days. Contractors can check their renewal status through their PVL portal under “pending application”. Note that contractors that fail to renew their licenses before the expiration day become unlicensed. In addition, RMEs with C-19 Asbestos classification cannot renew their licenses online, and they must also satisfy an additional requirement of providing and submitting proof of asbestos training and a completed hardcopy renewal form before they can successfully renew their licenses.

Finally, attorneys that want to renew their licenses must sign in to their HSBA portal and follow the instructions for renewal. For further assistance or guidance, attorneys may contact the HSBA at:

  • Hawaii State Bar Association
  • Alakea Corporate Tower
  • 1100 Alakea Street
  • Suite 1000
  • Honolulu, HI 96813
  • Phone: (808) 537-1868
  • Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, except weekends and state holidays

Attorney license renewals are done annually.

Cities in Hawaii